So now we know that eating peanuts can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as reduce inflammation. But peanut consumption can improve your health in many other ways, too! Discover how adding peanuts to your diet can help with reducing blood pressure, chance of stroke & gallstone disease and prevent alzheimers while actually improving brain function. You can consume many different foods to prevent dementia and other diseases, but we can’t guarantee that they taste as good as peanuts!
Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia
Peanuts are an excellent source of niacin and a good source of vitamin E, two nutrients that have been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
One study showed that, in almost 4,000 people 65 years or older, niacin from food slowed the rate of cognitive decline. In another study, 815 people over the age of 65 without Alzheimer’s disease were followed for almost four years. It was found that those who ate the most vitamin E from foods lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s by 70%.
Diet and Dementia
In fact, when researchers devised the MIND diet, a diet tailored to protecting the brain from cognitive decline, they styled it after the Mediterranean and DASH diets which both utilize peanuts. In 2015, two studies on the effects of the MIND diet showed that high adherence was associated with slower age-related cognitive decline compared to low adherence. Results also showed that adherence to the diet lowered Alzheimer’s Disease risk by up to 53%.
A 2018 study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, examined nut consumption in nearly 5,000 Chinese adults ages 55 or older from 1991 to 2006. Peanuts accounted for 84.2% of all nuts consumed throughout the study. Higher cognitive scores were associated with nut consumption, with intake of 10g per day (or one serving) associated with a 40% decreased likelihood of poor cognitive function.
Improve Brain Health With Peanuts
Peanuts eaten with their skins may also improve brain health. A 2016 randomized controlled trial (feeding study) published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that peanuts eaten with their skins improved both cerebrovascular and cognitive function in men and women. The authors of the study noted that these results are likely due to the bioactive compounds in peanuts.
In addition to vitamin E and niacin, peanuts also contain resveratrol, another bioactive component recognized as being beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease and other nerve degeneration diseases.
And if that’s not enough to improve your mood, this might: in 2014, researchers looked at a prominent antioxidant found in peanuts called p-coumaric acid. They discovered that it was able to target the neurotransmitter GABA, which regulates mood, stress and anxiety. Although this study was done in mice, authors noted that p-coumaric acid may have similar effects for reducing stress in humans as one of the leading anxiety-reducing drugs, Diazepam.
The many protective components in peanuts are just beginning to be understood. For the time being, we know that consuming a small serving of peanuts daily may help minimize the damaging effects of aging.
High Blood Pressure
One-third of Americans have high blood pressure, and many may not even know they have it. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and scientists have learned that the dietary choices we make can have an impact on blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan was developed as a dietary pattern that combines nutrients that are thought to be effective at reducing blood pressure. And studies show it works—people sticking to the diet substantially lower their blood pressure.
When following the DASH diet, nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, plus seeds and beans, are eaten four to five times per week. Peanuts and peanut butter contain magnesium, potassium, fiber, arginine, and many bioactive components, each of which could be contributing to lowering blood pressure.
In a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who consume foods rich in magnesium have fewer strokes. An intake of 100 milligrams of magnesium per day, which can be consumed in just 2 ounces of peanuts, was associated with a 9% decrease in risk of ischemic stroke. Compared to other nuts, those who consume peanuts and peanut butter achieve higher Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s) for many hard-to-get nutrients, including magnesium.
Additionally, the Danish Case-Cohort Study followed over 57,000 participants for 13 years to examine the relationship between linoleic acid (the main omega-6 fat found in peanuts) in adipose (or fat) tissue and risk of stroke. Results published in 2018 found that higher concentrations of linoleic acid in adipose tissue was associated with a 22% decreased risk for stroke.
Gallstone disease occurs when your gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly, leaving too much cholesterol or bilirubin in your bile. Opinions vary as to why the prevalence of gallbladder disease has increased, and it is probably due to many reasons. One of the risk factors for gallstone disease is being overweight or obese, which has become more common over the last few decades in the U.S. Another risk factor is having high triglyceride levels or low “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
Little attention has been paid to how diet affects this disease, but what we eat could very well be having an impact. One study that looked at over 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study found that those who ate peanuts and peanut butter five times a week or more reduced their risk of gallbladder disease by as much as 25%.
Peanuts are known to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, primarily due to their unsaturated fats. As a complex plant food, however, peanuts contain additional nutrients and bioactive compounds that are also likely to be contributing to this effect. Peanuts are certainly acting to help optimize how our bodies work and can improve our health when we eat a small amount daily.
One of the most impactful measures in research is mortality, also known as death rate. When certain behaviors or practices are positively or negatively linked to mortality, it signifies that they should or should not be continued. For example, smoking is associated with death from certain cancers, which is why doctors recommend kicking the habit.
Dietary factors have also been shown to have effects on mortality. In fact, in several population groups (Caucasians, African Americans, and the elderly), studies show that when people eat more nuts, including peanuts, their risk of mortality from all causes decreases. This benefit is especially pronounced for those who consume peanuts almost every day: when people eat a small serving of peanuts more than five times per week, the risk of mortality is reduced by more than 40%, when compared to those who eat peanuts less frequently.
Several studies have shown that eating nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter impact heart disease in particular. A study of Seventh-Day Adventists in 1992 found that eating more nuts and peanuts significantly decreased the risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Further, the 1996 Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that increasing consumption of nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter reduced the risk of death due to coronary heart disease.
Data from the Netherlands Cohort study showed that peanut/tree nut consumption was associated with a significantly reduced mortality risk. Participants who consumed 10g/day or more experienced a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 44% reduced risk of dying from neurodegenerative diseases when compared with those who consumed none.
A 2017 article published in Food & Function reviewed 18 prospective studies on the relationship between peanut/tree nut consumption and mortality. Researchers found that even at relatively low levels of consumption, peanuts and tree nuts were associated with reduced risk of death from all causes—with the strongest reduction for coronary heart disease mortality.
The benefits of peanuts have also been seen in those from different ethnic backgrounds. Utilizing data from 3 large-scale studies, researchers analyzed the effects of peanut consumption in Whites and African-Americans from the Southeastern US, as well as Asian men and women. Nut/peanut consumption were associated with a significantly reduced risk of mortality across all groups. This time, however, the strongest associations were seen between peanut consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
So the next time you’re enjoying a classic peanut butter sandwich, a handful of peanuts on a hiking trail, or experimenting with peanut oil or peanut flour in the kitchen, remember: you’re not just enjoying great taste, you could also be promoting your longevity!